If you see choreographer and dancer Tallulah Holly-Massey dumpster diving, fear not.

While it is tough to make a full-time living in the arts, Holly-Massey hasn't resorted to foraging in skips for food but is searching for easily breakable rubble for her first show as the Basement Theatre's 2018 artist-in-residence.

That show is Tender is the Night, a duet with fellow dancer Kosta Bogoievski, set in an unnamed post-apocalyptic world whose inhabitants try to connect and live with one another when they're not used to being part of a functioning community or society.

Holly-Massey describes it as an exploration into alternative bodies and unseen borders and wants rubble strewn around to create the allusion of a place that is broken and not entirely solid. Is it a metaphor for the fact that old certainties and trusted institutions no longer seem reliable?


She pauses, maybe, but she's not committing to that take on the show's aesthetic. She acknowledges being the daughter of a sculptor, Christine Massey, and growing up surrounded by pieces of sculpture, a kiln and watching her mother teach children's art classes has influenced her.

"I really like working with objects."

As this year's Basement Theatre artist-in-residence, Holly-Massey gets to make three works at the venue which prides itself on supporting new and local voices. There's no financial stipend but production and marketing assistance in an environment wholly devoted to fostering the arts.

Since the Basement's artist-in-residence programme started in 2016, two companies — Last Tapes Theatre Company and FAFSWAG — have held the position; Holly-Massey is the first solo performer and she's pleased to work out of a venue which isn't exclusively a dance one.

A Unitec graduate who holds a degree in contemporary dance, Holly-Massey was a founding member of the Pointy Dog Dance Company and has performed or made work for several other companies, including Footnote.

She spent much of last year working with artist and film-maker Vincent Ward, as one of two models for his Palimpsest Landscapes series of photographic and video works in which the curves of their bodies doubled as the topographical curves of the landscapes.

Holly-Massey became a living and breathing canvas, her body caked in chalk, clay, plaster, ink and acrylic, ground coffee and various fruits so Ward could achieve the right textures for the digital images he shot.

Then there was the summer workshop in Arizona studying with the Mexican/San Francisco experimental and performance art group, La Pocha Nostra. Fellow participants included a dominatrix, a drag queen and a refugee.

So, it's not surprising to hear Holly-Massey is enthusiastic about experimental performance and visual art being part of dance and theatre. She appreciates the fact that the Basement isn't promoting her exclusively as a dancer/choreographer, but more as a performance artist.

"Dance is not always the right language with which to explore an idea, but movement can be a great way to express something there's no other way to express," she says.

"Using movement is a way to show connection and disconnection or something about how the mind works."

What: Tender is the Night
Where & when: Basement Theatre, March 27-29